Brief Reviews On Sundry Manga

I have a pile of backlog here, but can’t quite work up the energy to post a full review for them. Hence these brief thoughts.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek 3: We basically have more of the same here, which is very much what I expected. Taiga deals with his girlfriend’s fetishes as best he can, while getting increasingly exasperated. Introduced here is Yuiko’s cosplaying friend Akari, who turns out to be Kouji’s younger sister. But honestly plot is sort of irrelevant to this series. I did enjoy seeing a brief snippet of Yuiko’s thoughts when she was dealing with the sleazy guy at her office – it shows that she actually does view Taiga as a genuine boyfriend, even if the depth of her feelings for him is still in question. That’s more than I usually get out of Otomen. A bonus at the end of the manga gives us a fake chapter of Sepatte Takuro, Yuiko’s BL obsession, and they even bring in another mangaka to draw it – Hiromi Namiki, who writes the ice hockey manga 88 for Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine. Unfortunately, the chapter itself is quite dull, being far TOO close a parody of shonen sports manga, to the point where the joke is lost.

Oh My Goddess! 38: We finish off the Chrono arc here, and thank God for that, as it’s one of the weakest in the series to date. Chrono’s fear of cats is incredibly lame, the dojikko maid thing continues to be done to death, and everyone’s praise of her at the end thus seems overdone. On the bright side, once she’s gone we start a new arc that will prove to be more dramatic, as Urd’s mother Hild gets overthrown in Hell by a sneaky trickster, and is now in a chibi body and relatively powerless. What’s worse, now the new demons in charge are arriving on Earth and granting wishes – but as ever, they twist them and make people suffer. I was amused at seeing Chihiro and Megumi actually SEE Hild appear before their eyes, and the building subsequently destroyed – but when the building is magically reconstructed later, they just edit their memories to fit the facts. All in all, not a great volume, but I’m hoping for better things now that Hell has new ownership.

Fairy Tail 13: As ever with Fairy Tail, I enjoy the volume when I’m reading it, but have difficulty retaining any memory of it five minutes after the fact. Erza’s backstory arc gets a bit of an epilogue here, and we see that we probably have not seen the last of Ultear – or Jellal, for that matter. There then follows some goofy comedy as they head back to a now-rebuilt Fairy Tail and welcome Juvia (unsurprisingly) and Gajeel (somewhat more surprisingly) in as members. This mid-section is particularly noted by the cameo appearances by Jason Thompson and Dallas Middaugh, whom Mashima had met when he was a guest at SDCC 2008 and decided to write into the series. Jason in particular makes a great dorky reporter. This is counterbalanced with Lucy’s attempts to use her charms for various purposes – and failing miserably. However, we then head into the next arc, where Laxus returns to town, just as big a jerk and twice as pissed. He and his colleagues decide to have a ‘festival’ where the Fairy Tail members have to fight each other in an elimination bout – and the female members are all turned to stone and used as hostages to make them do it. A sadly predictable plotline, but certainly effective. Fairy Tailo remains good, solid shonen, but I just can’t get into it more than I need to.

Natsume’s Book of Friends 7: Been a while since I reviewed this one. I enjoy the series a great deal, but rarely have much to say about it. This volume is notable for having a plot arc that lasts a good 2/3 of the volume, and features what may prove to be a new ongoing ‘villain’. Someone is attacking yokai in order to get their blood for some unknown purpose – and the attack is human! The main thrust of the plot, however, as with a number of previous chapters, is getting Natsume to be more proactive and choosing to do good, rather than drifting along trying to avoid being hurt. This volume is very much yokai focused – Tanuma and Taki don’t even show up – but that helps, as the whole thing ends up being almost like an action movie. There are a few flaws to the volume – the revelation of the human attacking the yokai turns out to be very anticlimactic, and the unrelated short story at the end is clearly a case of needing to pad out the book, as it’s not that hot. Still, the main story itself is an excellent relaxed shoujo horror, and I look forward to seeing Natsume’s further development.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek Volume 2

By Rize Shinba and Pentabu. Released in Japan as “Fujoshi Kanojo” by Enterbrain, serialized in the magazine Comic B’s Log. Released in North America by Yen Press.

This series continues to be very good at catering to its very specific audience. I’m not really one of them, but having been in fandom for so long I can definitely appreciate what it’s trying to say. The relationship between Taiga and Yuko may be tortuous to read, but it’s also very true to life. Taiga is constantly worrying about his relationship, wondering if he’s making it all up in his head, wondering if Yuko even likes him for himself, or finds him attractive in ways that don’t involve him being with other guys. But he never brings it up to her. Why? SHE MIGHT ANSWER. This is why I don’t really have any issues with the abuse heaped on Taiga in this series – he brings much of it on himself.

As for Yuko, she’s still a cipher, but is gaining some more good qualities. Good in the sense that they make her more interesting, not necessarily making her a better person. She gains a couple of fujoshi friends, and we see her irritation with a co-worker. The second in particular is amusing, as she dislikes the man intensely, but her reactions convince Taiga that he has a new rival for his love. The closest we get to any confirmation of her feelings for Taiga is in the first chapter, when, after noting she lied about her computer being broken so she could use Taiga’s better one, also admits with a blush that she wanted to see his apartment. Little steps.

There’s plenty of humor here, of course, mostly dealing with the fujoshi lifestyle. It’s still the main reason to read the book. There’s never really going to be any BL payoff, and no one is reading this for sexy romantic confessions between the leads, so instead you have the comedy. My favorites in this volume are detailing the proper way to play the galge she’s brought over, discussing how she plays fighting games to hear the guys scream as they’re punched, her face every time Taiga does something that makes her imagine him in BL situations, and the final gag about Comic B’s Log not being a BL magazine (which is true, but that’s like saying Wings is not a BL magazine).

Taiga can be very frustrating. He really hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know his girlfriend, mostly as he fears what will happen every time he asks her something, thinking it will be devoted to her hobbies. Most likely it will. But that doesn’t mean he has to treat her as some sort of blank slate. It’s especially annoying as we see that he is able to read her pretty well – one look at the cast of the galge and he can guess who her favorite characters are. If he wants to get any further in this relationship than ‘chew toy’, he should really be more proactive.

In nay case, I do recommend this to fans of character-based comedy, especially if you’re a yaoi fangirl, or know someone who is. Seeing Taiga suffer is just fun.

My Girlfriend’s A Geek Volume 1

By Rize Shinba and Pentabu. Released in Japan as “Fujoshi Kanojo” by Enterbrain, serialized in the magazine Comic B’s Log. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Fandom can be a scary thing. Especially if you really have no idea what goes into it. Just explaining to someone who’s never dealt with internet fandom the huge appeal of ‘twincest’ can have people backing away and avoiding you. But of course, you could say the same about being a huge sports fan. Or train spotting. Everyone has their little obsessions, and if you want to get closer to someone, you learn to accept them – or at least live with them.

Taiga is our hero, and he seems, for the first couple chapters, to be a lucky guy. His job’s fairly easy, and there’s a cute woman working there. She’s pretty, she’s hardworking, she’s nice – and she seems to be single. Sure, she gets a little weirded out when he sees her reading manga, but hey, that was his fault, right? So he asks her out.

To Yuiko’s credit, she knows what she’s like. She confesses to him that she’s a fujoshi, and asks if it makes any difference. Unfortunately, not everyone knows what a fujoshi is. And so he says NO PROBLEM!

And then the manga *actually* begins, as the whole point of this manga is not to see the loving romance, or even the comedic romance, but to see Taiga get tortured. This does not run in a shoujo romance magazine, Enterbrain doesn’t have any of those. Nor does it run in their men’s magazine Comic Beam. No, it runs in Comic B’s Log. Which is technically shoujo, as it’s definitely for girls, but its genre is yaoi. Well, not quite. Almost yaoi. Yaoi-ish.

And this is the fandom Yuiko is part of. Fujoshi literally means ‘rotten girl’, and refers to what North American fandom calls a ‘yaoi fangirl’. And once the two of them start dating, Taiga can’t quite be sure of Yuiko likes him as a good boyfriend… or just likes fantasizing about him with other guys. What’s worse, he likes the shonen manga she’s obsessed with… having never even thought of its yaoi potential… and he can write, after a fashion. He’s perfect!

If you’re after characterization and romance, this title will likely seem lacking. Mostly as Yuiko is a complete cipher. She has slotted Taiga into the ‘I can be obsessive around him’ slot in her mind, and when that happens, it is very difficulty to realize just how far you’ve gone. More to the point, however, he worries that she’s only using him to fuel her fantasies. He may be absolutely right. The whole thing is from his perspective.

That said, anyone who has been involved in fandom, even a little bit, will find situations to laugh about here. The manga they’re talking about is a shonen sports manga about sepak takraw (kick volleyball), which reads to me a lot like Eyeshield 21, a manga which DOES have a huge yaoi fandom, both here and in Japan. But more than that, the whole thing is filled with the little in-jokes that all fandoms get, the ones where other people go “huh?”. Such as her insistence on calling Taiga Sebastian when he’s pretending to be a butler. Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei did that joke as well, and I’m fairly certain Black Butler will too. It has to do with Dog of Flanders.

Yen’s translation is good. I think their choice of retitling it as ‘Geek’ is ultimately a good one – Yaoi Fangirl reduces your potential audience. I’m not sure, judging by the excerpt from the novel printed here, if I could stand it for a full length work, but who knows? Other writers have published their blog posts successfully.

I don’t think I could recommend this manga to everyone. I saw Ed Sizemore’s review, and he’s right. If you don’t want to read 5 volumes of a guy alternating between getting frustrated and humiliated, with perhaps the occasional bone thrown of her showing actual interest in him, you’ll hate this. But for what it is – a broad look at fujoshi culture from the outside, and how it can be both freakish and understandable all at once – it’s pretty good.